The city of St. Paul hopes the private sector will have new ideas to improve one of its most basic public services: snow plowing.

As part of a pilot project, a non-profit startup called Civic Consulting Minnesota is helping the city develop ways to measure “what a good outcome for a winter driving experience looks like.” It’s expected to make recommendations before, hopefully, the first flakes fly in November.

At a budget committee meeting Wednesday, city council members also urged the public works department to come up with a plan to improve the winter walking experience.

Private property owners are responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalks in front of their buildings, leading to an uneven landscape for pedestrians. Snow plows often make matters worse when they heap icy mountains at the corners of residential streets.

“We have snow piles that this year someone will fall off and break their hip and die. And their relatives ought to sue us,” Council Member Dave Thune said, at the end of a lengthy rant on the subject.

“Dave, stop digging,” Council President Kathy Lantry interrupted, trying to move on to other parts of the agenda.

“We’re not digging. That’s the problem,” he shot back.

“Then find four votes and find the money,” Lantry retorted.

Exactly how much it would cost the city to clear snow from the corners of sidewalks isn’t clear, but the answers seems to be: A lot. The public works department says there are about 40,000 intersections in the city. Clearing them all would mean a doubling the city’s workforce, Lantry said.

A Minneapolis City Council panel is recommending the city scrap a long-standing requirement that bars and restaurants have designated men’s and women’s restrooms.

A similar measure is under consideration at the state level. A proposed change to the state building code that would take effect in January would give all businesses the option to use unisex bathrooms instead. The change would apply only to bathrooms with one toilet stall and a locking door.

Dylan Flunker told council members he supports the change — as someone who’s transgender and as a father trying to potty-train his 3-year-old daughter.

“Men’s restrooms are not known for their cleanliness or always their baby-changing tables,” he said. “Single-use bathrooms that are accessible for families greatly increase the capacity of families to be out in public with their young children.”

The full city council will vote on the ordinance change next week. It will also consider a resolution encouraging businesses to make the transition to gender-neutral bathrooms.

An electrical problem is causing delays on the Green Line this afternoon, Metro Transit officials said.

The agency is replacing train service with buses between the Downtown East and Raymond Avenue light rail stops.

The problem is a broken pantograph, which connects the train to the overhead power lines, according to Metro Transit spokesman Bruce Howard.

“That train was stuck at Washington and Church,” Howard said. “And we had some people who we had to evacuate off of that vehicle. We’re powering down the system right around that area so we can fix it.”

Howard said trains are still operating in both directions in downtown Minneapolis and east of Raymond Avenue in St. Paul.